JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Sexual harassment settlements involving the Hinds County sheriff will cost taxpayers $100,000 more than previously reported because of documents that had not been originally turned over to WLBT as part of an open records request.
It took months to get the first two settlements against Hinds County Sheriff Victor Mason after attorney Claire Barker told us repeatedly she believed they had been sealed by a judge’s order.
She later found no proof of that and released everything she had at the time, but one settlement was missing.
We realized that days after our initial 3 On Your Side investigation aired.
Those settlements involved two cases against Sheriff Mason from two women: Cheryl Matory, a former Hinds County undersheriff, and Belendia Jones, who also worked as a deputy.
The Matory case also mentioned someone else: Tomeca Barnes.
In the complaint, Matory said Mason fired her for not arranging sexual encounters between him and Barnes.
Still, Barnes’ settlement was not produced when Barker sent the other two to our legal team earlier this year.
“They never turned it over to us until late May,” Barker said. “I didn’t have it in my possession [to give to you.]”
Barker said Lisa Ross, the attorney representing the defendants in both cases, didn’t give the sheriff’s office a copy of the Barnes settlement until weeks after our first story aired, a month and a half after it had been signed.
“There was no effort [by the county] to conceal anything,” Barker said.
That new settlement shows Barnes will get $100,000 from the county, meaning between the two lawsuits, Hinds County taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for $330,000.
Barker released this statement on behalf of Sheriff Mason, whom she has previously said could not comment on these settlements because it could trigger future litigation.
“We don’t have any further comment on this. We’re happy that there’s a resolution for all parties in this case," Barker said.